One can’t have a civil discussion about guns and gun violence. It’s the “third rail” of politics as this article discusses:
Somewhere amid these social media discussions, I typically read this line, “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” It’s the ultimate outcome of such third-rail topics. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it’s a metaphor for issues so highly charged that they’re untouchable. It refers to the dangerous, high-voltage third rail of a railroad track.
However, the parents of slain TV news journalist Alison Parker have intentionally grabbed this third rail and claim they aren’t letting go until their last breaths. They didn’t want to grab it, they feel compelled to after their daughter’s killing last week.
“They messed with the wrong family,” Andy Parker told media, referring to NRA supporters and lawmakers who voted against passing stricter gun laws.
Kudos to the Parkers for coming out shooting, so to speak, about this hot-button issue. They could have retreated to their home, locked the doors and grieved in private.
Indeed, the public grief of victims and survivors of gun violence makes people uncomfortable. Few people want to engage in an honest discussion with you when you just happen to mention that your sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband. Good grief. Poor woman. It’s too painful. I can’t talk about this because it’s too awful. It’s too painful.
And yet, as the victims pile up year after year after year with no end in sight, there are more and more and more loved ones and friends left behind. It’s unavoidable. One can hardly escape the pain of those of us who walk about our loved ones. It’s inconvenient to hear the stories but people like Andy Parker, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, Richard Martinez, and many many others are speaking up and speaking out. They are going to be heard whether people want to listen or not.
The gun rights advocates just hate it when people affected by gun violence speak out soon after a shooting . We are told that organizations working on gun violence prevention are “dancing in the blood of the victims” if we speak out for stronger gun laws and a change to our gun culture soon after a shooting. They want us to wait. Wait until when? If we waited until the carnage stopped our voices would be silenced forever. This hypocrisy is offensive, insensitive and self serving.
The week-end after Labor Day is a high school class reunion for me. A friend is coming from Vermont and will stay with me. A few years ago her husband, also in my class, shot and killed himself. ( Vermont- a state of high gun ownership and where most gun deaths are suicide and most suicides are by firearm)
I reached out to my friend after reading her husband’s obituary in my local newspaper which didn’t mention suicide of course. But I just knew that the cause of death, not being listed as suicides tend to be, wasn’t right. On a visit several years after his death she and I shared our stories. She is ready to be involved in some way and I believe she will make her voice heard. But her concern expressed to me in an email about arrangements for her visit was what she would say to people who knew her husband and may or may not have known about his gun suicide. My advice was to just be honest and forthright and discuss it if people wanted to. And if some of our former classmates are uncomfortable with the inconvenient truth, so be it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk. Because just perhaps we can talk about what it means to have guns in the home for self defense that end up being used to kill oneself or another intentionally.
I just love this post from Mike the Gun Guy as he talks about the latest video posted by Molly Ann Weymer that has gone viral. An innocent looking sexy woman lying on her back talks to the camera about the difference between an attack gun and a self protection gun. From the post:
And this is the point at which the video takes a brilliant turn. Because after a few additional Ma’ams, Molly says to the storekeep, “I watch the news, and I know there are guns that attack people and guns that protect people and I would like the protection kind of gun.” She then goes on to say that she bought a “pink one” because that was more “feminine” and here’s the kicker: “If we can just figure out how to get all the murder guns and the attack guns and not keep selling them and just sell protection guns, I think that would be great and solve a lot of problems.”
Now I’ve been following the gun debate for more than forty years, and this is the first time I have heard the two sides of that debate referred to simply in terms of what a gun can do. Of course a gun can be used for self-defense, but the same gun can also be used to inflict great harm against someone who isn’t a risk or threat to the gun owner at all. And by verbally juxtaposing the words ‘attack’ and ‘protection’ with the idea that we are talking about different kinds of guns, what Molly Ann has done is reduce the whole argument about guns to what it really is: a dispute about what a gun represents in its most finite form. Because what protection means to the pro-gun community is what attack means to people who want to regulate guns. And Molly Ann Wymer has expressed this better than anyone else.
Herein lies the problem of our American gun culture. We are confused (on purpose of course by the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists) into thinking a gun for self defense will never be used as an attack gun or a gun to kill a loved one or even oneself. This is a huge misperception that needs to be challenged. Good for Molly Ann Wymer for simplifying the debate. For those loved guns keep getting used against people who know and love each other either intentionally or accidentally. No one wants to talk about this. And the big secret that no one wants to admit is that the majority of gun deaths are due to suicide.
One of my favorite sources for research and information is The Trace. In one of the latest posts, the point about the gun deaths that take place privately in homes due to domestic shootings or suicides is highlighted. From the article titled “Just Another Bloody Summer”:
The total numbers, the numbers that matter, are these. Between the start of Memorial Day Weekend and August 28 (the date when the most recent statistics were pulled), an estimated 3,702 people were killed by guns in America. Another 8,153 were wounded. That’s according to preliminary data from the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks incidents of gun violence through media reports and police blotters. And it amounts to 81 more shooting deaths and 959 more gun injuries than during the same period in 2014.
Statistically, then, this summer’s increase in firearms casualties has not been huge. What has seemed potentially significant is the effect on perceptions. David Chipman, a former ATF agent, believes that “people have been blown out of their detachment and denial.” If there is a lasting shift (and time will certainly test his assertion), it will owe in part to the way the summer of 2015 mixed together horrors too-familiar and new: Innocent churchgoers standing in for innocent school kids, a Tennessee Naval Reserve facility instead of a Texas army base, a movie theater shooting sequel, a workplace rampage that in a depraved twist was documented with not one but two cameras. Americans may have come to expect an Aurora or Newtown or Fort Hood on a semi-annual basis, but there yet remain varieties of brutality for which we aren’t prepared, have not already pre-processed.
Has anyone not been affected by the carnage inflicted on innocent church members, military members, journalists and movie goers in the shootings that have been the source of much talk and consternation? I doubt it.
The article goes on to talk about the mass shootings, the “not so mass” shootings and the numbers -which are staggering. And then, of course, there are the shootings by and of police officers which cannot be avoided even if inconvenient to discuss. From the article:
While theories falter, there are numbers, again, to be reckoned with: TheGuardian has counted 298 people, 61 of them black — seven of them black and unarmed — shot by police this summer. On the other side of the thin blue line, twelve police officers were killed in June, July, and August, eight of them in one ten-day stretch. One of them, Darren Goforth, a deputy sheriff ambushedwhile pumping gas in Harris County, Texas, was approached from behind by a man who emptied 15 rounds into his head. Firmin DeBrabander, a Baltimore resident and author, looked at the first set of numbers and the second set of numbers and saw a place where the interests of the Black Lives Matter movement and law enforcement overlap. “Neither can advance their stated missions — saving lives, affirming the value of all lives — amid a profusion of guns, which so easily waste lives,” he wrote in the Washington Post.
Indeed. It is the profusion of guns. This is unavoidable and inconvenient. But it just can’t be kept quiet. Yes, police officers have shot armed and unarmed people alike- many people of color, some not. Fear for their own lives or some sort of racial prejudice or questionable decision-making and/or police practices have led to far too many shootings. On the other hand, with so many armed citizens on our streets, officers can’t be blamed for fearing for their own lives. It’s the guns in both cases. Officers in other countries don’t carry as many guns because they don’t encounter armed citizens on their streets or in homes.
And more from the article:
The Conley story was unusual in that it generated national coverage; shootings that take place within four walls can seem too quotidian to attract much attention. This does not make them any less brutal. In one week in August, a mother of three was fatally shot by her boyfriend in Covington, Tennessee; a man murdered his brother in Toledo, Ohio; and a firefighter wasshot at home by a woman in Jackson County, Mississippi. “It’s a domestic,” the local sheriff said. “He’s been shot and he’s dead.” A shooter, a body, another family tragedy. The numbers from the Gun Violence Archive tell that there have been hundreds of domestic victims this summer. (Even when we do pay attention to gun deaths that take place at home, we still often overlook a still bigger category, the gun violence no one talks about: the thousands of gun suicides that occur every summer, part of the upwards of 21,000 suicides-by-firearm recorded each year.)
A majority of Americans now believe that a home with a gun in it is a safer home, as the pollsters at Gallup tell us. When a gun kept for self-defense is a gun kept at the ready, loaded and unobstructed by locks or passcodes, it becomes a gun that can find itself into a child’s hands. Here is Fred Grimm, a popular columnist for the Miami Herald, assessing the damage done this summer in his state alone, when “Florida kids discovered their parents’ firearms and the statistical probabilities trumped all that home safety propaganda pushed by the gun lobby.” An 11-year-old boy finds his mother’s semi-automatic pistol and shoots his 9-year-old brother in the face. A three-year-old, likely searching for an iPad, instead discovers his parents’ loaded Glock 9mm and shoots himself in the head.
Shhhh. Let’s not talk about this. Let’s avoid the discussion. Let’s not listen to the voices of Andy Parker and the other victims who are speaking out and will not be silenced. Plug your ears. Cover your eyes. Maybe it will go away. And then again, maybe not.
I mean when incidents like this are reported on a daily basis in local media outlets, how can we avoid the idea that guns are dangerous and people with guns are also dangerous. From the linked article:
A 23-year-old Phoenix man is in critical condition after shooting himself in the head while trying to show that a handgun could not be fired while he had the safety mechanism engaged.
The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office said Christen Reece fired his handgun Wednesday while shooting with six other people outside Overgaard in eastern Arizona.
Good grief. The sub header of the article says not to point a gun at yourself or others. Good advice but it just isn’t working. This just doesn’t happen with knives or hammers. Sorry. It’s an inconvenient truth but it doesn’t.
The answer is common sense and so much more. We are reaching a point of no return. If we don’t change things soon, almost everyone in America will know someone who has been affected by senseless gun violence. Things just have to change and people like me and those who are writing such great articles and doing the research that must be done are exposing the inconvenience that gun violence is a serious problem. We can’t not talk about it. It’s past time to have the conversation and insist on solutions.